Frequently Asked Questions: January 2016

What is the SouthEast Connector?

The SouthEast Connector project is an important regional investment in the Truckee Meadows addressing long-term transportation needs while improving the mobility of people, goods and services throughout Reno, Sparks and the urbanized areas of Washoe County. The SouthEast Connector– to be called Veterans Parkway– is 5.5 miles of new high-access control arterial roadway stretching from the intersection of Greg Street/Sparks Boulevard at the northern end, to the existing intersection of Veterans Parkway/South Meadows Parkway at the southern end. The road will be three lanes in each direction, with new signalized intersections at Mira Loma Drive and Pembroke Drive.

How is the project being phased?

Project construction is being conducted in two phases:

Phase 1 construction was completed in July 2014 and consisted of the building of two bridges: the Veterans Memorial Bridge and the Clean Water Way Bridge; and the new roadway from Greg Street to south of Clean Water Way.

Phase 2 construction began in June 2015 and is currently underway. This phase of construction consists of the building of five bridges at Yori Drain, Boynton Slough, Rosewood Lakes, Mira Loma and Huffaker Narrows; and new roadway from Clean Water Way south to the existing Veterans Parkway/South Meadows Parkway intersection. The project is scheduled for completion in late 2017.

The entire project is scheduled for completion in late 2017 where it will be open to the public. For the safety of motorists and construction crews, the project will not open in phased sections.

What are the project benefits?

Benefits of the project include:

  • Providing an additional and much needed regional north-south route, improving connectivity within the south and east Truckee Meadows for all modes of travel
  • Relieving current and projected traffic congestion on regional roads, particularly I-580, McCarran Boulevard, and numerous regional roads in south Reno
  • Accommodating current and future commercial and residential development
  • Providing new bicycle and pedestrian access in the corridor
  • Enhancing safety for all modes of travel
  • Providing improved emergency access, including during flood events
  • Restoring environmental resources along Steamboat Creek through the creation of a 90 acre riparian corridor
  • Creation of an 80 acre wetland complex that will naturally clean the urban runoff contamination currently contained in Yori Drain
  • Enhancing vegetation and providing protection for wildlife
  • Providing local construction jobs
  • Creating economic stimulus

What is the project cost and how is it being funded?

The total project cost – including construction, right-of-way acquisition, design, permitting, and construction management – is approximately $290 million. The project is 100% funded through voter-approved RTC-5 funding generated from local fuel tax. 

What regulatory permits were required?

  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Clean Water Act Section 404 Permit
  • Nevada Department of Environmental Protection (NDEP) Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality
  • Special Use Permit (SUP) and Variance issued by the City of Reno
  • FEMA Conditional Letter of Map Revision
  • NDEP National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit #NV0024219
  • NDEP Groundwater Discharge Permit #TNS-41410
  • NDEP Groundwater Discharge Permit #TNS-41317
  • NDEP Groundwater Discharge Permit #TNS-40882
  • NDEP Groundwater Discharge Permit #NS-2015510
  • NDEP Stormwater General Permit #CSW-40729
  • NDEP Working in Waterways Permit #CSW-40729
  • Washoe County Air Quality Permit #DCP-15-0036

What were the legal challenges?

On November 19, 2015, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California dismissed the lawsuit that had sought to stop construction of the SouthEast Connector.   The Upper South East Communities Coalition (Coalition) filed the lawsuit, alleging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and RTC of Washoe County did not adequately examine the project’s environmental impacts and violated both the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Clean Water Act.  On Nov. 18, the Coalition filed a stipulation for dismissal, seeking to voluntarily dismiss its lawsuit.  The dismissal follows major federal court decisions denying the Coalition’s requests for an injunction.

June 3, 2015, U.S. District Court denied the Coalition’s motion for preliminary injunction to stop construction of the project.

July 9, 2015, U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit denied the emergency motion for injunctive relief.

November 2, 2015, A unanimous panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit upheld the District Court’s June 3rd ruling. It was determined the Corps and the RTC “did properly conclude that the project was the least environmentally damaging practicable alternative,” as required by federal law.

The RTC conducted a comprehensive public outreach process, with nearly 200 community and public meetings, throughout the development of the project including extensive input from the Coalition.

Has the project reached final design?

As of April 2015, the project is at final design. Project features include:

  • Maintenance access points for flood mitigation structures and perpetuation of existing drainage/irrigation channels including Thomas Creek and Steamboat Creek.
  • Diversion structures, access roads and culvert systems underneath the new roadway throughout the project to work alongside the roadway and improve drainage operations.
  • Grading through Rosewood Lakes Golf Course driving range to accommodate an agreement between The City of Reno and the First Tee, a nonprofit organization benefiting youth development.  The final design within the driving range includes holes that can be used by the First Tee participants and a revised cart path system throughout the course to ensure there are connections between the final nine-hole course layout. The improvements were made within the original project footprint and met the requirements included in the 404 permit.
  • Wildlife gates in various locations to improve safety for animals and motorists in addition to wildlife crossings under the roadway and 8-foot tall wildlife fence to keep animals off of the roadway.
  • A ten-foot wide multi-use path for pedestrians and bicyclists which includes four rest areas along the 5.5 mile route.
  • Utilization of bio-swales, or vegetated ditches, that naturally clean the storm water runoff from the roadway and bridges prior to discharge into Steamboat Creek.

How long will traffic control last on Pembroke Drive and Mira Loma Drive?

Truck crossing at both Pembroke Drive and Mira Loma Drive will remain in effect with flagger control as necessary for the duration of the project. Traffic control is needed for motorists’ and workers’ safety as construction vehicles and equipment cross Pembroke Drive and Mira Loma Drive to access the construction site.

There will be a temporary closure of Pembroke Drive to allow for construction of the new SEC/Pembroke intersection scheduled to take place during the summer of 2016 and last approximately two months. Additional information including scheduled closure dates and detour information will be provided in advance.

What is being done about mercury contaminated soil?

Mercury contamination within the Steamboat Creek drainage originates from legacy Comstock mining of the late 1800’s, when mercury was imported to the Comstock-era mill sites located near Little Washoe Lake at the headwaters of Steamboat Creek. In addition to mercury as a result of historic mining activity, there is naturally occurring mercury in the area from geothermal inputs to Steamboat Creek and from cinnabar formations in the area of Geiger Grade. As there is naturally occurring mercury within the watershed and mercury upstream of the project area from legacy mining activities, it would not be feasible to completely eliminate mercury within the project corridor. The project team will remove approximately 22,000 pounds of the existing mercury from the surrounding environment (within the project corridor) and permanently encapsulate it within the new, elevated roadbed and above the groundwater table. This process significantly minimizes the potential for mercury to leach out and reenter the surrounding environment, limiting future exposure. The roadway pavement will also provide an additional waterproof barrier, minimizing the opportunity for stormwater to infiltrate the encapsulated mercury-containing soil. NDEP determined this method of permanently sequestering the mercury underneath the roadway is “protective of human health and the environment and consistent with how similarly contaminated soils have been managed on the CRMS [Carson River Mercury Site]”.

How is wildlife being protected?

The endangered species, Cui-ui, and the threatened species, Lahontan Cutthroat Trout (LCT), will not be adversely affected by the project. Neither of these species inhabit Steamboat Creek. The primary goal is to prevent deer, wild horses, and other large wildlife from entering the roadway through the use of an 8-foot tall wildlife fence and double width, round tube cattle guards. Wildlife crossings under the new roadway will be provided for, where feasible, under bridge structures and via the larger flood equalization culverts. One-way wildlife gates will be installed to provide exit points in the unlikely event that larger wildlife makes its way into the fenced-off right-of-way. Nesting bird surveys are also conducted within two weeks prior to any construction during the nesting season to identify areas containing nesting birds and their eggs. Additionally, over 600 trees will be planted in various locations throughout the corridor to provide enhanced wildlife habitats.

Will the new roadway impact flood levels?

Because of its location within the Critical Flood Zone 1, which has been designated as critical flood storage for large regional flood events on the Truckee River, the project is designed to comply with Policy 3.1.b of the Washoe County Comprehensive Regional Water Management Plan (Flood Plain Storage within the Truckee River Watershed) and Ordinance No. 6164 of the City of Reno development code. Because the project traverses a large area within Critical Flood Zone 1 and because mitigation options are limited within the Rosewood Lakes Golf Course due to right-of-way and topographic constraints, the project will comply with the 1:1 mitigation requirement set forth within the Washoe County Plan and the City of Reno Ordinance No. 6164 and demonstrates no adverse impact with the use of two models: the most up-to-date Truckee Meadows HEC-RAS model run with the design 117-year event for the Truckee River flood pool and a two-dimensional (2D) model for the floodplain of Steamboat Creek upstream of the Truckee River Flood Pool. To mitigate the impact of the proposed roadway embankment to the flood pool and the floodplain of the Steamboat Creek, mitigation basins will be excavated adjacent to Steamboat Creek and the roadway embankment. The seven new bridges along with over 100 equalizing culverts throughout the project will also help equalize the floodplain and protect the nearby communities. The Truckee River Flood Management Authority has reviewed the project flood model and has concurred the RTC’s approach is in compliance with the local flood ordinances.

Has a noise study been performed?

An updated noise study was completed in September 2013 based on the current alignment. As a result of this study, a soundwall is included in the design at the southwest corner of the intersection of the SEC and Mira Loma Drive to mitigate noise to the Herons Landing subdivision. Under the current RTC Noise Policy, this is the only area within the project corridor which meets the criteria for noise mitigation measures. The RTC obtained input from the Community Working Group (CWG) and the Herons Landing HOA on wall aesthetics. The Traffic Noise Analysis is available for review on the project website.

Will there be pedestrian and bicycle accommodations?

There will be a continuous, paved multi-use path constructed from the intersection with South Meadows Parkway at the south end of the project which will connect at the northern end to a multi-use path constructed as part of Phase 1. The path will be separated from the roadway for the majority of its length, running along the toe of the roadway embankment except in the areas of the Mira Loma and Pembroke intersections as well as at flood equalization culvert locations and the Rosewood Lakes, Boynton Slough, and Yori Drain bridges. In these areas a concrete barrier will separate multi-use path traffic from vehicle traffic. The path will run along the eastern side of the roadway from South Meadows Parkway to Alexander Lake Road, where it will then pass under the new Huffaker Narrows Bridge and continue along the western side of the roadway for the remainder of its length. At the Pembroke and Mira Loma intersections, standard pedestrian safety elements will be included (e.g., crosswalks, pedestrian signals, ADA ramps, etc.). The path will also include pedestrian “rest areas” with benches and trash receptacles at various locations along its length.

What will the speed limit be on the new roadway?

The proposed speed limit will be 45 miles per hour. Both Reno and Sparks Police Departments will be responsible for enforcement.

How can I get involved?

There are multiple ways to get involved with the project. You can visit southeastconnector.com or  rtcwashoe.com and sign-up to receive project updates and construction news; follow the RTC on Facebook, Twitter and RTC TV on YouTube by searching RTC Washoe; and attend public meetings about the project and construction schedule (meeting times and locations will be announced through the RTC online, advertisements, stakeholder emails, local and social media). Organizations and community groups interested in learning more about the project may also contact the RTC to schedule a presentation.

Beginning February 2016, you can sign-up online to take a project tour to learn about construction activities, procedures and progress. Tours will be available once a month. A schedule and additional information on project tours will be available on the project website.

Who can I contact for more information?

Please contact Joe Harrington, RTC’s Public Information Officer at 775.335.1916 or jharrington@rtcwashoe.com if you have any questions or need additional information.

 

FAQ – January 2016

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FAQ – January 2015
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FAQ – March 2014
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FAQ – March 2013
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FAQ – December 2013
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